Today, New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) turns ten years old.

First conceived in a second floor classroom in still-flooded Samuel Green Middle School, NSNO was founded on the belief that every child deserves the opportunity to attend a great school.  For ten years, we’ve been honored to walk beside students, families, and educators to increase educational opportunity for all.

Since our founding, NSNO has raised over $125 million to support public education in New Orleans.  We have helped launch over thirty schools and have provided support to over 75% of the public schools in the city.  We have brought talent development organizations to the city that recruit and train educators for nearly every school in New Orleans.  And we have always kept school quality at the forefront of our decisions.

Over that same period, students in New Orleans have demonstrated what is possible when educators have autonomy, when government holds schools accountable, and when families have agency over the decisions that affect their children.

Our system has seen unprecedented academic growth: graduation rates are up, ACT scores are up, and more of our young people enroll in college than ever before.  OneApp has provided families with equitable access to schools across the city. Expulsions have dropped to well below state averages, and with the recent approval of a differentiated funding policy, schools now receive the resources they need to serve all students well.

None of this could have happened without the tremendous work of the families, students, advocates, and educators who make up our system of schools.

We were reminded of that this weekend as Sci Academy, one of the first schools NSNO helped launch, hosted their alumni crawfish boil. Families, alumni, current students, and teachers all gathered to celebrate.

Since opening in 2008, Sci Academy has consistently been one of the highest performing open-enrollment high schools in the city. Ninety-eight percent of the students in each of Sci Academy’s four senior classes to date were accepted to college. And later this spring, students from their inaugural senior class in 2012 will graduate from colleges and universities throughout the country.

While schools in New Orleans like Sci Academy are opening doors of opportunity for more and more students, still too few have access to the transformational education they deserve.

As we set our sights on our next ten years, we acknowledge the road ahead will be long.

First and foremost, we must improve academic outcomes for all students—nearly a quarter of our students still do not graduate from high school on time, and average ACT scores still fall below what is considered college-ready.

In addition, our system must also be able to move quickly to solve additional challenges that our city still faces: creating a high-quality adolescent hospital, improving educational opportunities for incarcerated youth, and ensuring that every family, on an ongoing basis, has equitable access to a great school.

These are significant challenges, but New Orleans is well-positioned to solve them. We believe that by continuing to focus on academic excellence and removing roadblocks that threaten progress, New Orleans can become the highest performing urban school district in the country by 2025.

NSNO’s mission—to deliver on the promise of excellent public schools for every child in New Orleans—and values like Student Achievement First have always guided our work. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the belief that everything we do is in the service of students and the schools that serve them. Our work is not done until every student attends an excellent school.


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